Product: Dell XPS M1530 15.4" HD Widescreen LaptopManufacturer: DellMSRP: $999
(Varies by configuration)Introduction
The 15.4" screen size is the bread-and-butter size for most laptop manufacturers, and Dell is no exception. This fact is made even more true when you consider the premium line of notebooks that is the XPS brand. In past years, Dell simply re-branded their consumer notebook line to fill separate niches (as is the case with the Vostro). I'm glad they didn't take this approach with their first foray into the XPS notebooks. The resulting line of notebooks includes the XPS M1530, a radical departure in design & style from their heretofore vanilla notebooks.Unboxing
This system was ordered from this deal
, which was particularly appealing to me because of the relatively loaded specs at a price point close to 1k. We ended up ordering 8 of these systems as you can see from the pictures.
The packaging is standard stuff, with the notebook safely encased in the M1530 soft shell case surrounded by foam. Accessories include Creative EP-630 Earbud Headphones and the mini remote that tucks neatly into the ExpressCard slot. The included folder lets you keep all of the bundled CD/DVD media organized should you need it in the future.SpecificationsIntel Core 2 Duo Processor T9300 (2.5GHz/800MHzFSB, 6M L2 Cache)
4GB, DDR2, 667MHz 2 Dimm, for XPS M1530
15.4 inch Full Hi Definition Wide Screen WUXGA TrueLife + Webcam
256MB NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT
320GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive
56Whr Lithium Ion Battery (6 cell)
Integrated Sound Blaster Audigy
Intel 4965AGN Wireless-N Mini-card
Biometric Fingerprint Reader
Bluetooth 2.0 EDR
Vista Home Premium
It would have been nice if Dell matched the memory to the CPU, however we had to settle for 667MHz memory mismatched with the 800MHz FSB CPU.
The design cues are very much the same as the XPS m1330 which we previously reviewed. There's basically no difference except for the size of the laptop itself. The capacitive multimedia keys present nicely above the keyboard at the base of the screen, and all of the access ports are on the sides or front of the m1530.
Being that this is Dell's "high-style" laptop offering, one might be concerned that Dell offers a sure method to sabotage the great style of this laptop. They have recently been offering a free 9-cell battery upgrade as an option. In fact, when we opted for the standard 6-cell battery our order got delayed by about 2 weeks compared to the 9-cell option. The problem is that the 9-cell battery protrudes significantly (about 3/4") from the bottom of the laptop. The advantage of the 9-cell battery is that it offers 4+ hours runtime vs about 2-1/2 to 3 hours for the 6-cell (in power saver mode). Here's a heated debate on the issue.
The m1530 has three USB 2.0 ports, which is one more than the little brother m1330. Because of the slim profile, the USB ports are a tight fit for even a bare USB connector, so any fat USB peripherals may interfere with using the adjacent ports (USB, power, CD/DVD slot).
In theory, you're supposed to be able to use the fingerprint reader to login to Windows as well as to manage password protected sites. In practice, I found the realization of this biometric security vision to be difficult. The fingerprint reader simply does not function reliably enough to be anything more than a novelty to me. If your hands are dry and free of oils/moisture, such as is the case after washing them, the sensor will not reliably detect your fingerprint, thus forcing you to manually type in your password. Not to mention the ever-present threat of using your severed finger to gain access to your critical files.
The Dell XPS m1530 has been out for the better part of a year now, and even earlier versions of this laptop got impressive scores from the dedicated review sites. This particular configuration has the Core 2 Duo T9300 2.5GHz CPU with 6MB L2 Cache, a significantly superior CPU to the early models reviewed above. It also sports a seriously high resolution display at 1920x1200, allowing for more taxing pixel loads. The GeForce 8600M GT is (after over a year on the market) still a top of the line mobile video chipset, however mobile video chipsets have not advanced nearly as much as desktop graphics cards have in the past year.
On the Super Pi benchmark, the m1530 was able to calculate 1M digits of Pi in 18 seconds, which is really top notch for a notebook. In fact, my desktop scored 23 seconds on the same calculation, making me sad.
From a fully charged battery (6-cell, 56 WHr) the maximum battery life was reported by Windows to be 3 hours and 54 minutes. This is with minimal loaded programs and at the lowest brightness setting. You should not expect to get this battery life if you are actually using the laptop during this time.
Under moderate usage at a usable screen brightness setting, you should expect the battery to last between 2 hours and 2 and a half hours. That's enough to view most DVDs if you're on a flight, but it leaves little time left over. If you plan on working away from an outlet for longer periods of time, consider the 9 cell option which will give significantly longer runtimes (while adding almost 0.75" to the overall thickness of your machine).
To get an idea about the power saver mode and its effect on performance, we ran the Super PI benchmark during power saver mode. The benchmark took 39s in power saver, versus a much faster 18s in full power mode. Power saver mode reduces the benchmark by about half.
At first look, I was fairly impressed by the design and form factor of the XPS m1530. When picking it up, it is significantly lighter than most other notebooks in its class. Through several weeks of use & testing, no major problems arose and the XPS m1530 proved itself to be a genuine joy to use. The combination of pleasing design, good portability, and superb usability have left me impressed. I'll be using this specific notebook as my own personal notebook for at least a year or two. Consider that to be my highest recommendation.